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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Normalize U.S.-China Trade Relations




It is unfortunate that those who oppose normalizing trade with China have chosen to demonize China. To hear opponents talk, to defeat permanent normal trade relations with China is to defeat the "evil empire" for the good of U.S., Chinese and Taiwanese citizens. In reality, a vote against trade with China is a vote against U.S. businesses, employees, U.S. citizens and the people in China who would benefit from greater U.S. presence, products and services.


Hewlett-Packard Co. co-founder David Packard understood the importance of building bridges between the United States and China. From his first visit to the People's Republic of China in 1977, Packard maintained a love for China, a deep respect for its people and a commitment to promote a strong relationship between the United States and China. Early in 1980, China and HP signed the first high-tech memorandum of understanding, paving the way for China Hewlett-Packard Co. to be established in Beijing in 1985. From its humble beginning on the fourth floor of a Beijing watch factory, China HP has grown to nearly 20 sites and 1,800 employees throughout China. HP investments in China's communities quickly followed.


HP's presence brought benefits to China HP employees: housing, medical, pension and profit-sharing programs. By 1996, more than 250 China HP employees had purchased homes through HP's program, a remarkable achievement in a country that had not allowed private property for decades.


The success of bridging HP's U.S. culture with the unique Chinese culture is a contrast to the sweatshop images and disregard for individual liberties highlighted by those opposing normalized trade with China. China should improve its policies in the areas of human rights, religious freedom and international relations. However, it does a disservice to the people of China and to U.S. businesses and employees to say that isolating China is the solution to these and other concerns.


To those who believe that defeating trade with China will protect U.S. jobs, the fact is that China will be the second- or third-largest market in the world for high-tech companies within three years and is the fastest-growing market for many U.S. products and services. Exports make the difference between company and job growth and stagnation. Failure to pass this legislation means our European and Asian competitors take our market share in China, hurting U.S. businesses large and small, from agriculture to high-tech.


To those who believe that defeating trade with China is needed to register disapproval of China's abuses of human rights, repression of religious freedom or military threats, the fact is that defeating this legislation will not free a single prisoner or make Taiwan or the United States any safer. In fact, national security experts view this legislation as critical to geopolitical stability. Many human rights and religious leaders agree that increasing U.S. presence in China will encourage greater positive reform faster and more effectively than would a policy of isolation. As Wang Juntao, a leader of the Tiananmen Square protests, observed: "If one needs to choose between whether or not China should be admitted, I prefer to choose yes. Both fundamental change in the human rights situation and democratization in China will come from efforts by Chinese within China. The more the relationship between the two countries expands, the more space there will be for independent forces to grow in China. ... Such independent forces will eventually push China toward democracy."


Carly Fiorina is president and CEO of Hewlett-Packard Co. and co-chairman of the Computer Systems Policy Project effort for permanent normal trade relations with China. She contributed this comment to the Los Angeles Times.